Oct. 3, 2022

How to be a confident public speaker (Challenge #35)

How to be a confident public speaker (Challenge #35)

Public speaking is a point of contention for many people. There are times in our lives where public speaking is inevitable, and most don’t feel equipped to do it well. However, you don’t have to do it well, you just have to do it a lot. 


Think of presenting in front of an audience like another type of conversation. If you think of it that way, many of you who receive our email newsletters will already have the tools you need to speak in front of an audience effectively. You can use the items off our Mastering Challenging Conversations Checklist to help plan your next presentation or speech.


If you’re not signed up for the newsletters, this episode will go over the key points of what it takes to be a good public speaker and how you can fine tune your skills by shifting your perspective from perfection, to gaining confidence through repetition.


Tune in to hear how you can start proving to yourself that you can become a skilled, confident public speaker, and become that effective public speaker you have always dreamed to be!


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This episode was produced by Podcast Boutique .


As I discussed in episode 28 I’m not a particularly natural networker. And yet, speaking and writing and now podcasting to large groups is pretty much my zone of genius. Weird, right? Just going by all the surveys that claim that most people are more scared of public speaking than they are of death, I suspect that a lot of you listening get butterflies in your tummy every time you have to give a presentation to your board, your donors, or other key stakeholders. So today, I’m going to share the three things you can do to become a better and and more confident public speaker, and as always, I’ll give you a challenge to help you take some baby steps out of your comfort zone this week.


Welcome to the Kind Leadership Challenge, where I empower educational and library leaders like you to build a better world! I’m Sarah Clark, founder of the Kind Leadership Guild. My PhD in higher ed Leadership, my experience coaching, consulting, and presenting to library leaders all over the world, and a career working in academic libraries from the front desk to the Dean’s office taught me that leaders can transform their organizations without burning out. And now I’m sharing those same lessons with you.  

Over the next ten minutes or so, I'll share short stories and simple challenges designed to heal yourself and your school or library, so you can get back to making the impact you wish to see in your communities. By embarking on each week’s challenge on your own or in our private community, you and your team will begin growing humanely, managing effectively, and creating collaboratively, so you can build the more informed and educated world we all need.


First, I want to share some good news with those of you who are nervous about giving your next presentation. If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, or have signed up for my email list, you already have most of the tools you need to handle any public speaking situation. Here’s the secret--a presentation is simply another type of conversation! And for that reason, many of the items on the mastering challenging conversations checklist also work great for planning your next presentation or speech! A few that are the most relevant are defining the problem your conversation—or in this case presentation—is meant to solve, and outlining your planned talking points so you know what you will hit and in what order. 

I also want to talk about another item on the checklist, “separating the facts of a situation from the stories being told about it,” because when it comes to public speaking, there can be an deeper type of story at play. The first level of facts vs story is the same as any other challenging conversation—when planning a presentation or speech, you need to define the unarguable facts of a situation, so you can distinguish them from the possibly-inaccurate stories you and the other people involved in the situation have created to make sense of those facts. However, for a lot of people, another story starts playing in their heads as soon as they learn they will have to stand up and speak before an unfamiliar audience—that public speaking is scary and they’re not good at it. The great news is that like any other inaccurate story, it loses its power if it’s disproven by the facts. So how do you start proving to yourself that you can become a skilled, confident public speaker?


Specifically, frequent, low-stakes practice. Confidence isn’t a requirement to speak well, but it’s strengthened by experiences of speaking well. So get up in front of people you know and talk. It doesn’t have to be fancy—and in fact it shouldn’t be. For instance, at my place of work, a catholic university, we start many of our meetings with a “reflection”. Usually it’s a reading of sort, sometimes religious, but more often something from fiction or other popular writing that reinforces our school’s mission and core values. And different folks volunteer to do it for each meeting. If I were wanting to strengthen my comfort level with public speaking, I’d volunteer to do that a time or two. Now, your school or library may not have a reflection, but perhaps they need someone to read announcements, or introduce a guest speaker, or maybe talk about a new project at a staff meeting instead of just sending an email. Try some small things like that to build up your confidence. 

In addition, there are thousands of formal and informal ways you can build up your speaking confidence and skills outside of work. Toastmasters is a common suggestion, and I actually found it pretty useful and fun when I joined a club right out of college. You can also take a leadership position in another club or group that suits your interests. And if you want to get a little more techy, try a little livestream on one of your social media pages, or even podcasting! And now that I think of it, there’s probably a whole episode in how my 9 years of podcasting has made me a better and kinder leader, but we’ll safe that for another day. 😊  

Finally, I’m going to repeat something I told y’all Waaaay back in episode 1 of this podcast: Finished is Better than Fabulous. If you want to improve your confidence and skill as a presenter, your goal is not to be a perfect public speaker. Your goal is to be a frequent public speaker. You will probably do better than you expect, but you will also stumble and struggle. To this day I flop in front of an audience or release a dud podcast every so often, and I consider myself a pretty natural public speaker! you will struggle, that’s how you learn 😊

So here’s your challenge: remember that confidence is a result of success, not a prerequisite for it. SO get out there and start presenting! Have a plan, find a low stakes situation, and don’t worry about being perfect! Get some reps in, get a little more comfortable, and share how it went by visiting our facebook group at kindleadershipchallenge.com/community.


Thanks for listening and for taking action to become a kinder leader. If you found this week’s episode insightful, give the show a rating or review—or even better, share this episode with your fellow leaders!  Never doubt that day by day, you’re building a better world, even if you can't see it yet. So until next time, stay kind now.   

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